OF BRAND-NEW THINGS AND OF ABSOLUTE NEWNESS
Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflection
4th Sunday of Lent (C)
March 14, 2010
Sometimes I do love reading that glossy mag called “Consumer Reports.” I love the look of new products and I love even more the ratings the magazine gives to those same new products. The pictures are tantalizing; the products themselves are mesmerizing, and one wonders with all sorts of new things that come the consumers’ way, people can ever hope to be satisfied with what they have at the moment.
The thing is, we all love new things. Who would not want to sport a new outfit on occasion? Who would not want to get the ultimate, the best, the newest, and the most chic? Even now, millions are drooling this early for the much awaited iPad of Apple, which makes all others pale in comparison, and gives Amazon’s “Kindle” a run for its money!
A good journalist, as the name implies, is he or she who has the knack of getting the latest “scoop,” one who is very much attuned to “I fatti del giorno,” the facts of the day, not yesterday, not stale, not old, not dated. Even good old Pope John XXIII is credited with that coined word precisely called “aggiornamento,” which roughly refers to getting the Church attuned to modern-day realities.
Well, in the name of this same Church, I would like to extend to you the ever new and ever fresh “good news” that juts out of the readings as clear as the light of day. All three readings speak, not of brand-new things, but of absolute newness – the newness that really matters.
Let’s start with something historical … Joshua speaks of something new. For the first time, the Israelites ate, not manna, but “unleavened cakes and parched grain.” They were plucked from a situation that is as much stifling as it is stale – slavery in Egypt – en route to the Promised Land!
What happened historically, St. Paul now reports as something that also took place mystically. Paul proclaims the truth about us who follow the author of absolute newness: “Behold, new things have come, and all this is from God.” “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. The old things have passed away.”
Or have they?
Let us touch base with our so-called “reality” … Hmmm … There is more of the old politics taking shape and getting even worse, with the more moneyed and popular, and who hog the airwaves with ads and jingles galore, most likely to win. Terrorists and their supporters claim that 9/11 was a big lie … catastrophic earthquakes seem to be the run of the day … humans (including you and me) are using up the world’s resources much faster than the world can naturally replenish them … The list is endless.
But wait … this is the world that is exactly still awaiting to be born! This is the world that precisely Christ has come to bring absolute newness to. The first book of Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms: “The Spirit hovered over the chaos of the deep.” There was utter chaos before creation came to be, before the life-giving breath of God made things to be. His breath brought newness … His coming spelled the birth of the new creation, a new dispensation, a new and glorious future that unfolded with the blooming of every flower, the birth of every child, and the coming to a deeper realization of people that the change they want has to begin in them; that they have to be the change they want for the world and all that is in it.
And yes! … there is that form of oldness and staleness that is the worst of all … brought forth by the ugly one! That antithesis to goodness, who cried “non serviam” right from the start, is the one that holds on doggedly to oldness, staleness, and enslavement. He it is who tries to keep a foothold on the true, the good, the new, and the beautiful – new life as only God can give and bring to sinful humanity.
Today, this utter newness shines out in a heart contrite, who now counsels us, with as much contrition as conviction: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
This utter newness is that which emanates from an event of the day that makes all days new and each one count as a day of the Lord, filled with goodness and gladness – the day of forgiveness! … a day that shines out because someone who humanly speaking does not deserve anymore to be loved, was loved with a godly love by a broken-hearted Father, who was never heart-bitter and heartsick despite the egregious sin of a son so vile, so ungrateful, so selfish as to ask for his share well ahead of time – only to lose it all in loose living.
This is utter newness! For new life is utter newness. The grace of forgiveness is newer than new, fresher than the morning dew, and infinitely more appealing than the latest scoop from a well-informed journalist.
And I have it on the authority of the aggrieved Father himself … “My son was dead but has come back to life.”
This can never be anything other than the best and the newest news of all time. God is merciful. God is forgiving. And when He does forgive, He gives it all … not just brand new stuff, not just brand new clothes and rings on our fingers, but absolute newness.
“Behold, I make all things new!”